During the past two years, Athens City Council has come up with some strange “solutions.”
- Council’s solution to unaffordable housing? Build more expensive homes.
- Council’s solution to local poverty? Entice wealthier people to move here.
- Council’s solution to racial injustice? Empty gestures and broken promises.
- Council solution to everything? Do whatever the mayor & party leaders tell you to do.
I don’t believe these are actually solutions.
What’s more, I’m frustrated with Council’s lockstep conformity and its opposition to democracy. Council members usually vote unanimously without discussing alternatives. Council routinely breaks its own rules to eliminate opportunity for public comment. Local party leaders take power away from voters by working to prevent competitive elections.
What makes this even worse is that Democrats are to blame. Republicans haven’t held a single Athens city office since 2005 and don’t even bother running candidates anymore, because there are too few local Republican voters to elect them. In the absence of any Republican opposition, our Democratic establishment can do whatever it wants. And apparently, what it wants is to behave like Republicans by pursuing gentrification, lax public safety regulation, giveaways to the wealthy and over-spending on policing, while covering up racial injustice. Perhaps that’s why Athens Democratic Mayor Steve Patterson bragged to The Post in 2019 that he was the mayor Republicans wanted — and indeed 17-year chair of the Athens County Republican Party, Pete Couladis, was among Patterson’s backers, along with all of our city’s biggest landlords.
The status quo maintained by our local Democratic establishment results in our community’s staggering inequality. Every year the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ranks Athens County as having the absolute worst housing problems in the entire state of Ohio — and by a longshot — due to the unusually high costs and unusually low quality of our local housing stock, and coupled with the fact that Athens County also has the highest income inequality in all of Ohio and some of the worst poverty.
And ironically, the status quo maintained by our local Democratic establishment prevents us from challenging Republican control of our state and the power of the far-right nationally. Which makes Republican support for local Democratic politicians even less surprising!
Every 4-5 years, tens of thousands of students pass through our city. We know that when students and young people vote, they overwhelmingly vote for the most progressive viable candidates. When it comes to presidential and midterm elections, student voting is actively encouraged by OU administrators, Democratic Party leaders and local politicians — and student turnout is high. But when it comes to the off-year city elections that determine students’ daily living conditions, students are kept in the dark and ignored — and student turnout is virtually nonexistent.
By keeping students in the dark about local politics (click the “OU Students” tab for more info), our Democratic city sends OU graduates off into the world with only a mountain of student debt and a collection of rental housing horror stories, instead of a knowledge of progressive city policy and a habit of participating in local governance that OU graduates could use to challenge the far-right wherever they end up next. What a waste!
I believe it’s time for a change — and I’m not the only one. In the past 7 months we’ve seen one local leader after another either being shown the door or clamoring to jump ship. The only incumbent Council member to be challenged in the May primary election was voted out of office by a stunning 30-point margin. Three more incumbent Council members decided to not seek re-election. Two of them resigned before their terms were even up! Meanwhile, the mayor eyed a run for Congress, which, if successful, would have resulted in him leaving office halfway through his term. Even at Ohio University, former president Duane Nellis resigned two years before his contract expired.
Athens has never seen such an exodus of incumbents — and it gives us the opportunity to send the status quo packing, too!
Come January 2022, a majority of Council will be new. At least 4 of 7 regular voting members will be different people than the folks elected in 2019. Sarah Grace is the only elected incumbent left in the at-large Council race, and the only landlord left on Council. Along with now-vanquished councilmember Chris Fahl, Sarah Grace has been the driving force behind Council’s strange “solutions” — including a so-called “affordable housing” initiative through which the city is publicly subsidizing luxury homebuying. If Grace becomes the latest incumbent to be voted out this November, the number of new Council members will increase to 5!
With new faces and new ideas, we can finally turn over a new leaf. We can correct what’s gone wrong these past few years. We can model for other communities a positive alternative to the growing far-right Republican control of our state. We can become the progressive city we claim to be.
As a dedicated community organizer with a 25-year track record of consistently fighting for –and often winning– positive change, I believe I’m the best candidate to lead Council in a new and better direction. In just the past 2 years, without even being a member of Council, I’ve got Council to pass its most pro-tenant legislation in decades, held city officials’ feet to the fire on racial equity, and helped bring about the most diverse and representative Council yet. (Click the “My Record” tab for more info.) I can do much more if elected.
As an unapologetic democratic socialist, my values are in tune with the same Athens, Ohio that voted 63% for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primary. As an independent, I don’t owe anything to the party leaders and major donors responsible for our city’s status quo. Whether working as community organizer or a candidate for office, I’ve never been in this for myself. I’ve always put social responsibility first. And I’ve never been afraid to rock the boat to do what’s right.
Paid for by The Committee to Elect Damon Krane